During the time of the bubonic plague, there was a little girl named Molly. She was from a prestigious family from the city of New Chicago, but heritage signified little and granted less. There were no social classes anymore. The plague made everyone equal in their own despair and death. Molly had nineteen siblings at one time, but they all died of the plague. Everyone died of the plague eventually, whether it was right out of the tube or at sixty.
One hundred years ago, the healthy thought they might have a fighting chance. They thought they could grow again, if only they bought enough children. If every healthy person bought twenty kids and those twenty kids had twenty more, then perhaps the war against the darkness could be won. Even with so few numbers, they thought, money would restore an entire culture of strong lungs and smooth skin.
A Midwestern rainstorm was coming in, the black clouds in the distance gathered. A little pocket of white cloud resistance shrieked towards the horizon.
Molly looked up, imagining that the clouds might have something to do with the real and unmetaphorical death that covered the entire country. From the street she stood in - her street - she heard wailing from apartment windows and screams from alleys. Where is June? she thought.
People would respond to the plague differently. Indeed, it would consume them differently.
Some people, usually the older ones, would be walking through the grocery store, appearing healthy to themselves and to strangers. Within five minutes, however, their skin would be as rough and grotesque as a rotten avocado. When they would step outside the automatic sliding doors, they would fall over, light green oranges rolling out of their paper bag. Another one down, the store-owner would think. Sighing, he would pull back his dreadlocks and call H-E-L-P.
Other times, it would be a gradual change. It would be a second university student, fresh out of first university, and ready to turn thirty and become a legal adult. Finally! he would think to himself, I will be a legal adult. And when I turn thirty-seven and I can legally rent a car, then I will be ready to start my life.
He would walk around the second university campus, with his light backpack swung over one shoulder, waving to his boyfriends as they walked by. I could buy a kid with one of them. I’m ready.
He would go to Professor Grimes class and learn about the ethics of robotic sexuality, but the rabbit trails were really the heart of the class for him. Professor Grimes enjoyed teaching the ethics of robotic sexuality, but his real pet hobby was discussing the preservation of endangered animals, like the squirrel. “I will give all of you extra credit if you vote for Senator Robsson’s proposal to make the hunting of the squirrel illegal. That is this Thisday. I am not going to repeat myself, it is this Thisday.”
Comparing the yearbook photos of this second university student, you could see the subtle changes of the plague’s internal effect. Bulbous, red eyes. Concave skin, facial deformities, paleness.
And right out of second university, a week spent in bed. And the rest of his life spent dead.
The plague hit everyone, however slowly or quickly, it came. Its source was unknown. Scientists looked for a cure, but all they could find were things to cut from your diet. Out of desperation (and the recommendation of lead scientists, one Miss Chamberlain and her wife Miss Lawrence), the American government banned all processed foods.
“It has come to the attention of this president,” President Rickles announced on live internet on July 5th, 2130, “that processed foods in this country not only pose a threat to our attractiveness but also to our health. For this reason, I hereby ban all processed foods from store shelves, your shelves, and - yes - even my shelves. I know, my fellow people currently from the same land, I will miss those sugar corns. This law is being enacted immediately, everywhere, and without due consideration for the damaging effects that such an immediate change might cause on our national welfare. This is a crisis now and we are going to fix it now. If you or your family are struggling for food, know that the European Union is standing by, ready to grant you a fund to begin farming. Slowly, together, we will rebuild this country.”
Molly thought about her family, about all the health issues they taught her about and their personal family beliefs. Her fathers past onto her the belief that health could be spread by descendants, even with the knowledge that every single person died of the plague.
This strategy was popular among the healthy and was unofficially called the Hour-to-Minute Theory, in reference to the hands of a clock. The theory begins with the idea that, while all people die of the plague at some point, there is a time when all people are healthy. Not everyone is infected, but everyone will be infected. If all of the currently healthy people quickly had multiple children and none of the infected had any children, then the entire population would be healthy after a time. And, the theorists believe, if you could get the entire population to be healthy simultaneously, then the plague would disappear completely.
Molly was not so sure about the theory. One, it was unfeasible. Two, it was not strategic. It was not strategic, because she believed that the final premise was incorrect. How can you assume that an entirely healthy population ensures the disappearance of the plague? Even theoretically, the plague would come back after a time.
No, something else would have to be tried. The plague could only be stopped if it was directly attacked. But how are you supposed to attack a plague? What weapons?
“June? June!” Molly waved and June ran across the street. “There you are! Let’s eat.” Molly, twenty-one, opened the heavy wooden doors to a tall brick building for June, seventy-three.
June met Molly four years ago, when June was walking the deserted streets of New Chicago and came across the wracked body of Molly. She was shivering and curled up next to a dumpster, unable to speak.
June kneeled down and extended her hand. “Child, come here child. Take my hand, Jesus is here.”
Molly feebly lifted a finger and June lifted the girl up onto her shoulders. “I am going to take you home.”
At that time, Molly’s family were all dead. It was one of those cases when the plague struck them all like lightning to a thatch roof. Her dads woke up that morning with a bad cough and that night she disposed of her entire family onto the body pile at the garbage dump. Not knowing what to do, and unsure why she was spared, she went into an alley, crumpled next to a dumpster, and began weeping.
June took her in. She lived at a place called a convent. The whole thing was unusual to Molly, all of these healthy women living together and all of them confessing that they were virgins (who believes it?). Even more, none of them had bought or ever wanted to buy kids. The factory for the most popular reproductive brand, Kidz-In-A-Tube, was just across the street, too.
A few days into her stay and having regained her strength, Molly asked June about her odd lifestyle. “Why do you live the way you live?”
June smiled and said, “I and all of these nuns are waiting for the soon and impending Day of the Lord in a thousand years, even now. For now, we are called and dedicated to find the infected - the dying - and heal them. When I found you a few days ago, you were dying. Did you know that? Now look at you. Take a look in the mirror. Go on.”
Molly turned and looked at herself in the mirror. Standing in front of her was a skinny but well-shaped and red-faced girl wearing a solid green dress.
Her eyes were opened and the thin veneer of metaphor shattered. The way to stop the plague was not going to be through the healthy made sick, but through the sick made healthy.
She stayed at the convent for a few years, as murders and thefts and wars and famines and plague raged outside the brick walls, going out with the nuns and gathering the sick.
They taught her about the world before, about how people did not buy children but made them themselves. They taught her that in the old world, marriages between a man and a woman were actually legal (!) and that marriages between a man and a man and a woman and a woman were illegal. They taught her that, even now, the rest of the world is entirely different and separate than this small country of America. They taught her that the plague was one that began with mental degradation and destroyed the body over time. The root of the plague was a mental defect from birth, likely caused by the rampant practice of reproductive tubing.
This, of course, led them into teaching her about natural medicine, their supposed cure for the plague. Everything from the toe to the eye is connected. The whole body functions as one thing. They used this truth to demonstrate to her the connection of people to others. Just as the heart is connected to the elbow, they said, so you are connected to me and to the man walking across the street right now. See him! they would say, pointing out the window and down in the street.
Years later, she said goodbye to the convent, used their personal airplane (because air travel was illegal at that time), flew to India, and married a Christian man there. They had twenty kids.
So were the conditions during the rule of the Church of AIDZ in America, that small country not two hundred miles across in the middle part, floating fifteen miles off the coast of the New World.
How close. How far.